Warning: distressing images
A white rhino in South Africa has been killed for less than a centimeter of horn despite recently having its horn removed as a safety precaution.
The mutilated carcass of 20-year-old Bella was found last week in Kragga Kamma Game Park, South Africa, where she lived with her young calf.
She, and other rhinos in the park, had been dehorned only a week before as a preventative measure against the rampant poachers in South Africa. Tank, the calf, is just 16 months old and still dependent on a mother's milk. He was found wandering near the body.
“Like all rhino owners, we knew that it was simply a matter of when ...” Kragga Kamma said in a post on Facebook announcing the news on Saturday. “[But] it’s beyond comprehension that she would be killed for a mere 1cm of horn...”
South Africa is home to 80 percent of the world’s rhinos but is constantly battling illegal poaching thanks to the high demand for rhino horn in Asia. A kilo (2.2 pounds) of rhino horn on the black market can go for as much as $75,000 – making it more valuable per gram than either cocaine or gold.
Rhino horns are not ivory or bone; they are made of keratin – the same as your fingernails. They continue to grow at a rate of around 10 centimeters (4 inches) a year, which is why many game reserves remove rhinos’ horns in a painless operation every other year, to remove them from temptation.
Sadly, it appears this is not enough to deter determined poachers. The number of rhinos killed in game reserves has gone up exponentially in the last decade, from 13 killed in 2007 to over 1,000 in 2017.
“You need the full array of security measures, day and night patrols, listening and observation posts, aerial surveillance, informer networks,” Cathy Dean, chief executive of Save the Rhino said, speaking to The Times. “Even then, while there’s still demand for illegal horn, rhinos’ lives are at risk.”
The sale of rhino horn is not actually illegal inside South Africa, after they controversially overturned the ban in 2017, though it is pretty much everywhere else.
White rhinos are the only rhino not endangered (though they are listed as near-threatened on the IUCN Red list) with around 20,000 southern white rhinos thought to be alive today. However they were hunted to near extinction at the beginning of the 20th century, and it was only thanks to dedicated conservation programs that began in the 1950s that we managed to rescue them from the brink. Sadly, the northern white rhino didn’t fare as well, as the last male northern white rhino died earlier this year.